Tarleton’s Rural Communication Institute Awarded Outreach Grant

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STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University’s Rural Communication Institute has received a $144,986 grant to provide vaccination education and outreach for six counties in Northeast Texas.

The Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant Program, funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services in partnership with Texas A&M Health, supports COVID-19 outreach and education aimed at increasing the number of fully vaccinated people in Texas.

The grant is potentially important for the counties served — Anderson, Cherokee, Harrison, Henderson, Panola and Shelby — because their residents have some of the state’s lowest vaccination rates.

Citing figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards said that just 37.38% of Panola County residents 5 or older have been vaccinated. Dr. Edwards is Executive Director of the Rural Communication Institute (RCI) and in the fifth generation of her family from Panola County.

The other counties served by the grant are only slightly better vaccinated — Anderson (43.72%), Cherokee (42.60%), Harrison (41.38%), Henderson (42.00%) and Shelby (40.04%).

“We’re providing COVID-19 outreach and education through community conversations, outdoor health fairs, library events and even Facebook Live sessions,” noted RCI Assistant Director Dr. Subi Gandhi. “After speaking with our team about their concerns regarding the vaccine, many individuals then decide to vaccinate themselves and their children.”

Olga Rodriguez, Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff at Texas A&M Health, said the grants were designed to give local organizations the tools to educate the communities they serve, “including rural areas, which can be difficult to reach due to distance and limited resources.”

For more information, contact Dr. Edwards at 254-307-1375 or jtedwards@tarleton.edu.

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